Britain remembers war dead as 201st soldier is killed in Afghanistan

BRITAIN lost another hero in Afghanistan yesterday – as the country stopped to remember the fallen.

On Remembrance Sunday, it was announced that a soldier had been killed in a blast in Helmand province.

The victim, from 4th Battalion, the Rifles, was the second British soldier to die in the area over the weekend.

Their deaths bring the number of servicemen and women to be killed in combat in Afghanistan since the war started eight years ago to 201.

Traditional Remembrance Day ceremonies were held up and down Britain – and in Afghanistan, where troops mourned their lost brothers before stepping straight back into battle.

Around 2000 service personnel gathered in a wind-swept and dusty Camp Bastion in Helmand to pay their respects.

Their padre, the Reverend Richard Downes, told them: “Greater love has no one than this that he lays down his life for his friends.”

Ceremonies were also held at other bases in Afghanistan.

At Lashkar Gah in Helmand, Padre Mark Christian, the senior chaplain of 11 Light Brigade, said the soldiers were there to commit themselves to “the cause of peace and justice throughout the world”.

A world away in London, under heavy grey skies, the Queen led the nation’s tributes at the Cenotaph, which was carpeted in a sea of poppies.

Prince William laid a wreath in memory of two friends killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and others “who have made the ultimate sacrifice”.

Prince Harry, the Duke o f York, the Earl ofWessex, the Princess Royal and the Duke of Kent also laid poppies.

The royal party were followed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Tory leader David Cameron, Lib Dem Nick Clegg, Foreign Secretary David Miliband, defence chiefs and foreign ambassadors.

Almost 10,000 troops, veterans and civilians took part in the two-minute silence at 11am, which was broken by a single artillery blast and the sound of the Royal Marine buglers playing the Last Post.

This year’s ceremony was particularly poignant because the three last known British veterans of World War I – Bill Stone, Henry Allingham and Harry Patch – all died this year.

Organisers said it had been the biggest turnout for years, with many people climbing up lampposts and standing on bins to get a glimpse of the ceremony.

Stuart Gendall, of The Royal British Legion, said: “People are marching past remembering their fallen comrades from the Second World War and people are falling even now in a foreign country, young men of the same age.”

In Edinburgh, Alex Salmond led the commemorations. The First Minister laid a wreath on behalf of the people of Scotland at the Stone of Remembrance and gave a reading in StGiles’Cathedral.

Salmond said: “Remembrance Sunday is a time for us all to reflect and remember the enormity of sacrifice made by Scottish servicemen and women, past and present.

“It allows people across generations to recognise and pay tribute to the duty and commitment of our service personnel and veterans and express our gratitude for their selfless work.”

Salmond said the country had a “long and proud” military history, adding: “On this Remembrance Sunday, in particular, we acknowledge the continuing bravery of our servicemen and women and the sacrifices they continue to make on our behalf.”

All over Scotland – in shops, parks and in the streets, people stood in silence to pay their respects.

The Lord Provost of Glasgow, Bob Winter, led a remembrance service at the Cenotaph in the city’s George Square.

Former soldiers and members of the armed forces took part in a parade through Aberdeen, finishing at the war memorial, where wreaths were placed.

At Fort George, near Inverness, members of The Black Watch held a private Remembrance Sunday ceremony, where they remembered the five members of their regiment who died during their seven-month tour of Afghanistan.

The weekend’s deaths i n Afghanistan sparked fresh debate about Britain’s role in the conflict.

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said the country needed to “show some resolution” in the face of continuing heavy losses. He added: “We have to persevere. Failure will be a disaster for us.”

The head of the armed forces, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, acknowledged that progress was “painful, slow and halting”.

But he insisted that the mission was “do-able”.

Stirrup confirmed that it would be another four or five years before the international coalition could hand over responsibility for security to the Afghans.

He said: “We have got to do much better at describing their progress.

“It is painful, it is slow, it is halting, but it is in the right direction.”